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When I was a kid growing up in Colombo and Galle, there wasn't the option of pizza delivery. Pizza itsselfwasn’t that well known; in the early 80s, there was a place called Gillo’s, and they had it, as I recall. But all the other places, where you got finger food – Fountain café, Green Cabin and of course Zellers– didn’t have pizza. So I first really encountered it, as some thing I could have on whim, when I was living in Cambridge, Mass, in the then run down part of that great town, Central Square. Hi-Fi pizza, which still exited when I visited in 2004, in a considerably spruced up environment, was our main stay, because they sold slices, and were open past mid night. And in those now memorable days of youth, every one in my MIT dormitory would be up, arguing about nothing at all, letting the time go by, punting as used to say, until big Bill Houston would stand, and announce he was making a pizza run. Hi-Fi pizza slices were cheesy and soft on the inside, crisp at the edges, and really super with pepperoni, cos it’s the meat had bite. I loved those late night slices, but even more, after sprinkling miriskalli, on them. I think any SriLankan, who likes pizza, likes loads of red chillie pieces sprinkled on their share.
And of course, when you order some from Dominos or Pizza hut, as you can these days, they do send the packets along. But isn’t that kind of second hand? Why not redo Pizza, our way? That’s what I did the other day, and I loved how it tasted.
Okay, here goes. I used ‘large’ pizza bread from 7 stars, which I got at Laughs. Its only 135.00 for about six or seven 12” ish pieces, which is cheap as bread, isn’t it? Cool. Then I got a whole fat thing of Kotmale Mozzarella, which is available frozen at the same place, and I dare say all over. It was okay Motze, and well not as expensive as the shredded imported from Australia stuff.
Method, as it were: Score the pizza bread in even lines, and smooth a thin layer of olive oil on it. (This will make the bread really nice.) Add another light layer of Chillie Sauce (I used MD, since I’m old fashioned), and then nice two or three heaped spoons of chillie pieces. Not power now, it’ll burn. Add a layer of chopped cheese, right over all that. Then a sprinkling on salt, just lightly, with two fingers. I had heated up my grill/oven to max, which is about 480F I think. Or 280C. Then warm an oven proof pan on the stove, adding a tiny bit of olive oil on that also, and let the loaded pizza bread heat on that, pan toasting the bottom, before transferring it the oven after two mins. After 10 mins in oven, take out that nicely melted and browning pizza, and resisting any desire to pick at it, add a sliced Bombay onion, some sliced deli meat, if you like that, (I tried it with 70g of Food City beef salami, and it was super), and more grated cheese. If you want to grate KotmaleMotze, it has to be frozen (or else it’s too soft)– so keep a bit frozen. Grated cheese right on top, will melt more smoothly for a nice finish. So add this second layer, a little more olive oil, just a tiny bit now, a tad more chillie pieces, and then put it in for another 5 mins.
And when you eat it, the chillie cheese flavor is almost right in the bread, which has baked in light flavor of salted (olive) oil, making up a savory taste we all know, but perhaps can’t name. Simple and great.
PS: I thought this recent piece in the New York Times, about the gourmet pizza place, Mozza, fascinating. They use very high heat, and custom made dough.
Update: this recipe and a photograph was published in Zero77, issue 2.
Pradeep Jeganathan was born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he lives and works. He began to cook when he discovered, as an undergraduate in the US, that MacDonald's was terrible. He continued, when he realized that girls like a guy who knows to cook. After he took up photography as a hobby, he got into shooting food. He has eaten a lot of cold meals since, but he hasn't stopped, because taking a photograph, helps him remember what he's eaten. (He eats a lot, and some times, he forgets). His food photos have been published in a variety of international and Sri Lankan print magazines and web sites and his food photo/recipe columns have appeared Zero77 & Spectrum ("Achcharu") and will soon appear in Ink. He's been a featured chef on ETV's The Home Gourmet, his cooking and food photos have been the subject of a feature article in Sri Lanka's Sunday Times; his food blog has also been featured in Femina.in -- the Indian women's magazine.